A Shoemaker’s Steps Into Entrepreneurship

(This is about my friend who makes shoes. His journey in entrepreneurship, as far as I’m privy to, is representative of the early stages of entrepreneurship. And I decided to write about the stages. And with an image of me wearing one of his designs).

Horny Phase: This is when an idea hits you and you start to masturbate over it. "Shoemaking. Yes, shoemaking!". Like the prospect of sex, the idea begins to sound promising, exotic, romantic and sometimes fantastical. Your brain is on overdrive. Your body twitches. It's love at first thought. But it's a delicate phase; it can extinguish quickly.

Passion Petrol Phase: "I am about to revolutionize shoemaking in Nigeria". This sustains the Horny Phase. You're now completely on steroids. Nothing in this world can stop you. You start to build biases to protect the idea. In fact, everything around you exists to confirm your biases. You associate the fervency of your passion to a divine conviction. Everyone starts to get a vibe from you. You're either weird to them or they're in awe of you. You can't stop yourself.

Quotation Phase: "Just do it!", "Just do the fucking shoes!". This is the most ridiculous stage. Familiar quotes take a new quality - "A journey of a thousand steps start with a fucking giant shoe". Same as spiritual quotes. You imagine yourself as an incarnate of a great entrepreneur. (Steve Jobs is everyone's usual suspect. Seth Godin is second. Yours will include the wealthy uncle that locks down the village during Christmas). You start saying smart and nice-sounding stuff. In order words, it's the phase of heightened psychosis. Everything motivates you. If a mere road sign says, "Speed Bump Ahead", you take it as a metaphor for your new business. You're just mad!

First Execution Phase: "We've launched a website that will change how shoes are made and sold in Nigeria". Actually, if you could, you may extend the claim to the world because, why not? This is world domination! And you'd believe your own silliness. Yes, the website is up and you've announced to friends, family, church members and exes. You won't talk about the hell you took web developers through in the making of the website. Your worry is now full-blown, and even more complicated by an anxiety over revenue. No, not anxiety. It's paranoia. How to make money becomes the bane of your existence!

OCD Phase: "Our logo must carry shoe element so it can become iconic". Actually, OCD runs through almost all the stages. But special mention to the compulsive and unnecessary drag over the choice of color, logo and the friggin' website design. (You'll contact some creative pretenders like Chris Ogunlowo via BBM, WhatsApp and everywhere and ask about their intelligent take on your logo, and he will feign intelligence simply to make you get off his back. But, deep down, he wondered if there aren't things that are more important to obsess about). You'll start googling the meanings of colours and, maybe, find spiritual connotations of logo elements and names!

Vanity Phase: "Journalists and bloggers will kill themselves to feature our shoes." This one is a curse. And you're careful. You know all those media things are at best veiled narcissism. The key currency here is to separate vanity from substance. You know well that not all media mentions are the same, some are the devil's way of distracting you from what matters. You don't chase interviews, PR, photo-ops and magazine front covers. You have things that are more important about your business to worry about. There's a wife to take care of, there's a future Harvard school fees to pay for the lil’ ones, and salaries to pay.

Lachrymal Phase: "Yaaaay, our shoes are selling. We have unique customers and we've hit our first profit." Insert tears here. Insert joy here. Insert multiple orgasms too. You’ve been waiting for this confirmation. You needed it to confirm you know what you're doing and you're doing it right. A milestone brings tears to your eyes. But, but... but your work has just begun.

Customers-Are-Kings-But-Some-Are-Fools Phase: "Don't fucking compare my shoes with roadside shoes". All along, you've been encountering customers at every point and you've been dealing with them with your church-mind. But it feels like a wayward prank when it seems like customers are behind you, scheming your downfall with unrealistic requests. You're holding yourself back from screaming on the phone or slapping the ones in front of you! But it is what it; you've got to deal with. Customers make or break businesses; you now know how to deal with them.

Customers-Breed-Customers Phase: "O'boy, I supplied shoes to my guy at that bank, now all their staff order shoes from me". Hey, you've gotta chill on the excitement. Your good work attracts more customers. Mediocrity doesn't duplicate excellence. Your Lagos domination has just begun. Keep at it. And be humble.

Bad-Customers-Pretending-To-Be-Friends Phase: "Chris, when are you going to order shoes from us, or, are you maaaad?" Some friends are in your business to ruin your business. Dealing with them requires an act of the divine. They won't order shoes. They won't invest in your business. They won't even visit your snazzy, elegant, on fleek website. But they'll write long ass Medium posts so you can give them free shoes or borrow them to rock them to owambe parties."

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Check out his website for the coolest and unbelievably handmade and quality shoes https://trybelifestyle.com/

When I Hosted Foreign Guests at The African Shrine

Since our dearly beloved president has been away, someone has to take up the duty of hosting foreign guests. I took it upon myself to host 2 Kenyans and an Italian because, really, ask not what your president can do, in his absence, ask what you can do for your president, in his absence.

One of our foreign guests has been a friend for some time and I had looked forward to her visit. Being quite wanderlust and bohemia, she asked to see the Nigerian default destination for mavericks, free-spirits, arty-party heads - The African Shrine. (And she kinda looks like a cross of Erica Badu with Janelle Monáe).

Femi Kuti will be performing. She knows some Femi's songs. I don't know many of his songs. (Just play me some sax or guitar solos and Beng Beng Beng and with some grade-A-mama-Africa-twerking, and I'm fine). Of the conversations that lend to subtle comparing of Nigeria and Kenya - including electricity outages and traffic and call girls, none was about how a Kenyan knows more Femi songs than a Nigerian. But we joked about the Kenyan that won the Lagos marathon. She yelled, "Who invites a Kenyan to a race?", in which I figured the State's governor needs to get his priorities right instead of throwing dollars at foreigners at the expense of a tourists-hosting Lagosian who is on a marathon against brokenness.

We took some obligatory photos at the entrance and made way into the hall. Femi had started performing. As drinks were ordered, I prepared to see curious gazes thrown my way as I mention that I don't drink alcohol. It's a well-known fact that teetotalers are passively persecuted in social settings. I’m used to the awkwardness. Star Lager beer for the foreign guys. Orijin for the curious foreign girl. Give me malt.

It's not the typical African Shrine crowd, of revelers jumping everywhere and with whiffs from weed colluding with belches from peppersoup and smoked croaker fish. Most people here are seated around chairs and their orders. Only a few - I think I saw Yeni Kuti too, are on the dance floor. We soon joined them. I seem touristy too with dance steps named after nothing.

Femi soon launched into a monologue about the Nigerian condition. He made remarks about the protests in the country and stressed that the type of protest Nigeria deserves is the type that grounds a nation to its knees, one that mutes social activities, not merely brandishing posters and posing for photo-ops. Femi, I believe, like his dad, nurtures revolutionary fantasies.

Two cages at the sides of the stage distracted me. Two ladies are in them. I wondered what artistic decision brought about caged girls, dancing and doing Afrobeat twerking. It disgusts me like the sight of caged birds.

More dances. More ethanol. Dale, who looks like Ziggy Marley, enjoys himself. Pierandrea, full of energy, soaks in everything Naija like a sponge. Anita, I believe, is a Nigerian at heart.

Femi leaves the stage.

After more pictures and souvenir purchases, we left too.

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Obama and Liberal Hypocrisy

(via huffington post)

(via huffington post)

Folks may say it's probably not the "ideal" time to charge at the other side of Obama's achievement. He's currently being lauded and idolized by his fans. I am one too. But, if we excuse ourselves for a second and aim our minds at some corners of the Middle East where Obama expanded his drone programme, we'll be look at his achievements with skepticism. This is why I like the pithy and unpopular post by Kola Tubosun. He says:

"It is liberal hypocrisy to overlook the devastation of Obama's drone wars around the Middle East as part of his legacy to his successor. We tolerated that, because it was a Democratic president, and that's a shame."

I agreed and attempted a psychoanalysis of the Obama phenomenon:

There must be a term for a type of cognitive bias and tendency to ignore the evil of that which we love, because such doesn't validate our perception, and we subconsciously filter ourselves from seeing those evils, or if we do, we handle them with leniency. It will remain the stuff of genius how Obama's drone credentials haven't drawn as much mainstream indignation. Teju Cole was vehement about this. Same as Cornel West in his farewell appraisal of Obama. Same as Chomsky on some occasions.

Your opinion nudges at the domain of psychology. This gentleman represents the most successful example of a well-branded political product. Critically observed, he imitates the qualities of the most successful brands/celebrities with the most favourable public disposition; you can sometimes scorn them but you can't love them enough. They may hurt you but, somehow, their sins are ignorable or easily forgivable (except for extreme exceptions where they go too far. O. J. Simpson, anyone?). In the unconscious transactions of engaging with them, we've given up our rights to critical appraisal. And that’s because we can't stand that they can be anything but nice. They must remain our best projections of ourselves, in the most idealistic way possible. You talk about liberal hypocrisy, I'd add liberal echo chamber too - a vacuum and machine with a good representation of people and institutions that are programmed for political correctness.

The media (excluding FOX, of course) deified him. The world is strung on hero worship, we are armed with masturbatory technologies that allow us to see only the gloss, and we can't imagine our heroes as mere humans capable of despicable acts. It's the triumph of his handlers and liberal insularity (and hypocrisy). You may be surprised that somewhere someone has read your post and is disgusted by its timing.

It's the reason the Trump phenomenon is jarring to their senses. If - sorry, not if - when Trump starts to use drones, watch out for the liberal outcry. Even if he doesn't expand the drone programme and kill as many civilians, wait for the hoopla that will follow the news because, yeah, Trump validates that evil perception. He doesn't have as much goodwill as Obama who, on records, used drones way more than Bush.

Liberals, very insular bunch. Obama, very lovable human being.

Richard Bona, The Jazzist

Let me introduce you to one of Africa's most amazing musicians and one of my favourite jazzists. (... if you don't know him already). This song was one of my most-listened-to in 2016. I didn't know there's a video. A beautiful video, that is. He's third on the list of musicians that I have a lot of their songs. (iTunes says I have over a hundred songs of Hugh Masekela. Oliver Mtukudzi too. I’ve got about 50 of Richard Bona’s).

This superby gifted Cameroonian jazzist dropped a cool song featuring John Legend - "Please Don't Stop" (visit the link now), and all was well in my world with that album - Tiki.

This fusion of his jazz style with Cuban element is a cheerful experiment.

An Evening With Dike Chukwumerije

In describing an excitement, especially one caused by a creative or spiritual experience, one is not short of hyperbolic descriptions. I’ll save the hyperboles that fit the performance of Dike’s spoken word performance (#MadeInNigeria) at The Muson Centre yesterday, for later. It was here I go, I can’t save myselfa creative triumph of an improbable proportion!

The night, as advertised, was about spoken word. In turns out, the night, as inadequately advertised, was more than spoken word.

I towed behind my friend as an usher led us through an already attentive audience and a dark overcast. We got there late but were lucky to have a corner with a good view of the stage.

Dike was performing a monologue. Costumed in 70's disco regalia an over-fitted top that advertised his biceps, bell-bottom trousers better described as giant paddles, an aviator shades that reminded of Sani Abacha and a head heavy with Afro, his voice blared through the hall. Behind him was a backdrop illustrating some of Nigeria’s cultural and political elements and which through perfunctory glance looked like a version of a Lemi Ghariokwu’s cover design of Fela Kuti’s album.

One of his monologues evoked the good old days when morality and sanity were relatively part of the Nigerian makeup. For those who lived through those days, these nostalgic evocations are easy references. But it is nearly incomprehensible for Nigerians in my age bracket to entertain the idea that Nigeria was once relatively prosperous, at least by socialist standards. Dike alluded to vestiges of a once economically flourishing country the groundnut pyramids of old Northern Nigeria, the touristy scenery of old Maiduguri etc., and, as one still experiences these days in incidental encounters with older peoplein beer parlors or danfos or marketplaces or grandma visitations, they reminisce about a past when the Naira was at a shoulder level with dollars and pounds. Dike modulated his voice to mimic a mother in pains of the loss of her children and repeatedly stressed “Bring Back… “, undoubtedly riding on the popular hashtag about kidnapped northern school children. This was not poetry for sentimentality.

The performances were interspersed with old Nigerian music some I know, some I don’t know, old advertising sound bite“Who get this condom, I say na who get this rain coat?”. I can’t recall now but I think there was Sunny Okosun’s, Evi Edna Ogholi’s, Francis Agu’s etc.

Then Christy Essien Igbokwe’s “Seun Rere” cued in and Dike launched into some cool dance steps. One wondered what he was up to until he invited the audience into the most humorous episode of the night a parody of a typical Nigerian mother. It’s best watched than any attempt to describe it. It was funny… because Nigerian mothers, in their melodramas, are funny!

Soldiers matched in to some music. Shoki dance got a feature. Same as a popular kegite chorus. Dike led a school protest and the soldiers, true to character, attacked and disbanded them with sticks. He launched into aluta chants, with a repeated soprano stress“I want to elucidate…. ” The poem alluded to Nigeria’s glorious educational past and how the government has since invested in ruining it.

The evening thematically was set as a discourse to query the country’s existential problems and threats. Firebrand words were aimed at Nigeria’s moribund development and elites, the latter, especially worried him as he struggled to reconcile how they enjoyed first world conveniences which they deny their third world fellow citizens. Dike sermonized and satirized with the gusto and articulation of a political activist. His materials were suggestive of robust knowledge of Nigeria’s history and political skirmishes.

There were kids performers too. A girl recited the full stanzas of the Nigerian national anthem and a boy recited a poem. The boy’s articulation got in the way of my comprehension of whatever he was reciting. The young dude’s articulation and confidence is the stuff of a potential child voice-over artist.

The last performance was a panegyric for Herbert Macaulay, Nigeria’s father of nationalism. The late guy peered from the backdrop, watching Dike reeling his political party credentials. I wondered if future reprisals of the panegyric would feature hologram appearance of the dead man. That would be cool.

The show ended. The audience gave a rousing applause and a standing ovation. If it were an aluta-kind of audience, I suppose there would be chants of encore. But some things don’t happen among Nigeria’s middle class art enthusiasts.

Hyberbole. #MadeInNigeria was made for epic evocation of Nigeria’s history and moribund existence. Hyperbole. #MadeInNigeria is spoken word served raw to nudge consciences and to nurture a national awakening. Hyperbole. #MadeInNigeria is Dike in his creative finest employing words as vehicles of social awakening.

Errrm, I got into the car, this time with my friend and another friend of mine I ran into at the event. She sat at the back. Dude sat beside me and I was hoping to start a cordial conversation about the evening; you know, just a chit-chat! I mentioned loudly in the car that I wonder how Dike reconciles his creative preoccupation with the fact that his father was once a prominent politician in a country where politicians are far from angels, and here, his son takes a creative-activist posture with the country’s leadership and development.

My friend shut me down in the presence of a babe o, “And so, what has his father’s legacy got to do with his art? Abegi, so the boy won’t have a life now because his father was…. please, forget that thing… Chris, you know you’re an empath that’s why you think these things matter!” Shit! Empath! That word. He charged some privy information about me into a mere harmless conversation.

I entertained the thought of driving him through 3rd Mainland Bridge so I can drop someone’s husband in the middle of the bridge. But I thought if it made the news, it may inspire Dike for #MadeInStupidity.